Good v evil in Bali


Posting from an iPhone since someone called BS on my wifi connection excuse, here are a few pictures from a nearly incomprehensible Balinese drama.

From what I could infer, there was a kingdom where a girl was wrongly accused of possibly poisoning the king. Then a battle between mythical creatures representing good and evil ensues. Not sure how to caption on my iPhone so you can have the stream of consciousness like experience of the drama in snapshots here.







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First day of Spring Break

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hFirst Day of Spring Break!

Here’s a post in which I model for my students taking on the first person narrative of a book character with a possible instagram image that the character might post.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

A few years ago, our grandson Maxwell came to live with my husband and me. Even though we love him so much, he is always in the basement. I don’t know what he finds so exciting down in the dark all the time. But he’s a boy, I guess. Truthfully, I don’t always know what to say to him anyway, so I’m glad he feels comfortable somewhere.

We make sure that he knows that there is nothing wrong with him. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him. Except that we have to be careful that his father’s blood doesn’t take over and that he remembers that he is our grandson.  It is a little bit of a shock to see him sometimes in certain lights, because he looks so much like . . . Well, we were just hoping that he would look more like our side of the family.

I’m thrilled that he is making friends with Gwen’s boy. Could his name be Kevin or Keith or something like that? They just moved in behind our house. I’m sure Gwen got an awful fright when she saw Maxwell–Sometimes I forget that as he gets older, he’s looking more and more like a man, whose ever side of the family he takes after. And Gwen’s boy is so, well, he’s just quite a little man. A real sweetheart. Some may say he’s a dwarf, but I think those people like to be called, “Little People” now instead of “dwarves.”

In any case, I’m pleased as punch. That will be good for Maxwell to finally have a friend. Someone he doesn’t kick. Not that he really kicks too much any more. I’ve already said too much.

Here’s a flower I found at the Bed, Bath and Beyond. It’s not real, who can tell the difference? Fake flowers are just getting better and better all the time.In case you’re wondering, it’s certainly not from my husband. He is NOT a romantic.But I just had to have it when I saw it at the store.

Why not make an Instagram of it? All the kids talk about Instagram and since it has the word “gram” in it, I thought, “You know what? You can do this. You’re a Gram now.” So here’s my Instagram pic (you don’t have to say picture any more now-a-days) of the day. It’s a white hydrangea in case you didn’t know.

hydrangea: for annie

hydrangea: for annie

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my car is a giant purse

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hSo I’ve posted many times about not having a car in Indonesia and taking taxis instead. As an American living in suburbia in the US, being without a car would mean bumming rides, spending hours on  a bus that takes you way out of your way, and biking in the snow. None of these options are truly sustainable in middle class. However, in Indonesia taxis are an affordable option.

Yet, transportation is only one aspect of having a car. What I miss most is a car being a giant purse. When I want to combine trips and pick up a few things before visiting friends–possibly cans of black beans only reliably available at a few stores or a baby shower present carefully wrapped with a fancy bow made of shredded wrapping paper, I have to weigh the fact that I am then required to haul my packages around all evening. I don’t really have a “night life.” In fact, the reality is I’m probably dragging a couple of Earth friendly burlap bags around a mall, from the Mexican / Turkish / Indian restaurant to the theater where “The Lego Movie” is playing.

Poolside with Sam and her amazing girls

Poolside with Sam and her amazing girls

Yesterday, I hired a taxi to take me to the pool in my neighborhood. It is only about 1/3 mile up the street. The reason was that I was bringing dinner, poolside, for my friend, Sam and her kids. We had 2 pizzas, a couple of salads, some small ice cream treats and most importantly, fresh baked homemade cinnamon buns. They were in a heavy glass dish and hot from the oven.

My helper, Atik, was almost in shock. “You talk me! I bring!!”

“Atik, so hot!! I can’t let you carry a glass pan full of hot cinnamon rolls 1/3 of a mile to a swimming pool.”

“Next time. You talk me!”

We compromised. She came in the taxi with me to help carry all of the picnic supplies to the pool. She refused to take the taxi back.

P.S. I’m leaving today for Bali to meet my aunt and uncle there. We may not have wi-fi so this may be my last post in the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thanks for all visitors. It’s been fun.


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the reason I went home

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI received an email during the school day from a student who wrote to say the reason she went home early was because she was tired of being bullied. She wanted her teachers to know that even though we may think she doesn’t care about her grades, “deep inside” she really does care about her grades.

I hadn’t seen her that morning, because we had not had English class yet. I hadn’t checked my email until the end of first break–during which I was finishing up a lesson plan for after the March holiday which began after school today.

Sometime before break this student must have called her driver and asked him to take her home.

I had no time to respond to her email as my next class was coming in. Then Period 4 happened. Then it was lunch where I was facilitating a Community and Service meeting in which the students were in the throes of planning a Fun Run for Cancer Patients.

After lunch, I walked into class and saw her with her usual group of friends. Understandably, still a bit emotional, she was not reacting well to the class discussion and was asked to leave by another teacher to finish her work more quietly in the other room.

When I had a moment, I slipped out and said, “I got your email. I’m so glad you came back. I was worried about you. What happened?”

“Yeah, I’m tired of being bullied.”

Was it something I said?”

Just one week prior also on a Friday, I had spoken to her quietly about 3 lies she had just told me. Each one flimsy. I asked her what she really wanted, because she had to notice that I had just seen through the 3 lies. She seemed surprised by my candidness. As a result, she told me she wanted to finish the poetry collection she hadn’t turned in yet–instead of working on an IT assignment.

I responded, “Now we’re getting somewhere. This is the truth. This is what I want to hear, not 3 lies about not having your computer, not being able to get a loaner from the IT department or that you forgot your password.”


Was it something I said?”

“No,” her voice registered concern for me, “You’re a nice teacher.”

I gave her a hug. My throat felt a bit tight.

I don’t normally want to be the “nice teacher.” Yet, my genuine hope was that this had been her way of saying that I was a teacher who was trying to understand.

As I write this nodding from exhaustion, not knowing how coherent the words are, I’m contemplating a response to her email. This will be the first thing I do on my first official day of “spring break.”


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my students’ devices

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday the 7th graders went back to visit the 3rd graders for Part 2 of their Augmented Reality project. The students were working on drawing a self portrait, providing 5 clues, then revealing themselves in a video. The self-portrait becomes a trigger image which launches the video on a downloaded app through which you can view both the trigger image and the video or image connected to it.

This project is run almost 100% on the students’ personal smart phone devices. Students who don’t have their own devices buddy up with someone or borrow one of my personal devices. I have nothing to hide–which reminds me of this post from another teacher who lets students rummage through his iPhone to show that living publicly on the internet means there’s nothing to hide on a personal phone either.



Although each student has a MacBook provided by the school, the Aurasma app we’re using runs on a mobile device. I would have to rely on students’ personal smart phones for the bulk of the unit.

This led me to consider how powerful it is for 12 year old students to be able to simply carry around in their backpack a MacBook and an iPhone, Android or Galaxy phone. Here’s a list of school-related ways they use their phones:

  • Snapping pictures of the homework assignment slide in the last few minutes of the lesson (which they have to show to me before leaving class)
  • Shooting videos for PE: dance videos or other how-to sports-related videos which they edit and post
  • Searching the internet when their laptop runs out of power (Every day there is a prolonged hunt for a charger by at least 1 or 2 people because they don’t like to carry their chargers around and also the chargers are fragile when handled improperly. Replacements are not easy to find in Jakarta. It’s the modern version of the constant grind of the pencil sharpener interrupting the lesson.)
  • High-tech 3×5 cards during speeches where all the notes are displayed on the internal notepad
  • Preparing music for assemblies or “easy listening” while doing independent work

Non-school related activities are plenty, but one of my favorites is the digital compact. Who needs a mirror when you have your camera to check for something between your teeth?

Without textbooks or a specific IT curriculum with benchmarks, other than the MYP (Middle Years Program) Design Cycle, I have been challenged to be extra resourceful this year in IT lesson plans. Like that kid in PE who thrives in the gym, but may struggle elsewhere, the students I rely on most can often be socially awkward but really comfortable troubleshooting.

Are students allowed to use smart phones in class at your school? What are the guidelines for use? I’d love to hear how your students use their smart phones in your classroom or in your district.

P.S. I have had to rely on wifi hotspots, not a SIM card (the pay as you go version of most phones in Asia) for my data access with my devices in Indonesia. I won’t go into the details about how a US iPhone on a lease plan does not have a SIM card port. But the students all have their prepaid cards and sometimes the G3 is really “lagg-y” so today my teacher devices came to the rescue when we were hitting glitches with the G3 connection. My devices were humming along due to the IT guys sparking my 2 devices to be automatically connected to the school’s wifi. This meant I had stronger connections than many students’ devices which were not always connecting. As a result, many students sought me out as a possible alternative when their apps kept swirling, attempting to make a connection with the Aurasma library of short video clips they had taken and were attempting to upload for use.

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pledge drive fan

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h“We have $361 to go in the next 11 minutes. I know we can do this.”

“Someone could call in as a Day Sponsor and it’s done. Day Sponsorship means you have a message of your choice read on air six times a day. It’s your chance to remember that special someone on their birthday or your anniversary.”

“Or we could have 7 people calling in at $5 a month. Every little bit counts. So do your part to support Michigan Radio by calling 888-258-9866.”

Tuning in for the Michigan Radio Spring Pledge Drive is a real time marker for me. I’m a spring renewer. I like to renew when spring break is closing in or sometimes kicking off. When Daylight Saving Time has sprung forward. When Tulip Time is in the final stages of Dutch Dance rehearsal and  tulip bloom anticipation.

Also, pledge drive banter is like being able to eavesdrop on people during their most Parent / Teacher of conferences overtime. Admiration, mixed with an explanation of what you offer, combined with gentle prodding, concluding with a request for some skin in the game.

There’s also potential for silliness. For some reason, years back, one Michigan Radio pledge duo riffed on the Ann Arbor sponsor, Dogma Catmantoo, in a way in which they could not mask their amusement. On my way to work, this hit me in such a way that I was giggling most of the drive until I pulled into our parking lot.

This year, as last, I was able to pledge online and have a thank you gift sent to my sister’s place. I do not own an NPR Tote. But my favorite gift was an advanced dvd copy of the “This American Life” episodes airing on Showtime. I also own a TAL mug, a stainless steel travel mug, and now a French press mug. I’m not even a coffee drinker. But great re-gifting options–apologies to Michigan Radio for re-gifting their gift.

Did you catch the Planet Money T-shirt project? Still waiting for a backordered squirrel shirt. One of the stops that a t-shirt makes on its way to a Target or Old Navy is potentially, yes, Indonesia.

I’d love to know if any of the Slice of Life crowd has Venn Diagram connections with NPR members. My money is on yes. If so, what are your favorite pledge stories? Or least favorite pledge moments?

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won’t take credit for the good days, but will celebrate them

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hAfter a week of high anxiety and drama, it was great to witness students coming together within and across grade levels on various projects. We are really working on building responsibility in our Grade 7s (American Translation: 7th graders) and a sense of community in our Grade 6s. March is when you grow tired of the same behaviors you were addressing months before.

But, today was not one of those days in March. Today, this happened:

filming the big reveal

filming the big reveal

The backstory is that these boys have been working on getting along. Today I saw them voluntarily work together to film an augmented reality video for a project. The project is for our Student Led Conferences in which students created a silhouette of themselves with 5 clues about their identity. The true identity is revealed when families download Aurasma  (an augmented reality app) and subscribe to our channel. When a person places their device over the silhouette, a video reveals the student’s identity. The silhouette is the trigger image and acts like a QR code.

Meanwhile in Grade 7, this happened:

our G3 buddies

our G3 buddies

Multi-age is so powerful! Ms. Mary Anne, the Grade 3 teacher and I were pleasantly surprised and definitely appreciating the way the Grade 7s were stepping up and being such great buddies to their 3rd grade friends. There were combinations that we didn’t even anticipate would be so magical: 2 artists were paired and discussed technique, some techies were set up and kept exchanging observations and tips, also a 3rd grade boy who gets along quite nicely with girls enjoyed the company of a 7th grade girl who “got him.”

As if the day wasn’t golden enough, on the walk back through our pristinely manicured grounds filled with tropical plants, Chinese reflecting pools with peaceful stone statues, giant replicas of Indonesian instruments for the children to play in the Adventure Park . . . a group of students huddled around this and one student captured the moment by snapping a picture just before someone moved his foot which elicited a scream when the creature moved its “antlers” in response:


I am thankful for days like this. I won’t take credit for them, but I will celebrate them.

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